MEN IN BLACK III (2012)
Running Time: 103ins. Rating: 4 Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter, Nicole Scherzinger, Michael Chernus, Alice Eve, David Rasche, Keone Young, Bill Hader, Woodie King Jr., Barry Sonnenfeld, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Tim Burton
It’s hard to believe that fifteen years have passed since MEN IN BLACK hit theaters and became a summer blockbuster. The film had a little something for everyone. Science fiction fans loved the gadgets and its futuristic motif where aliens from other planets lived amongst us, often indistinguishably. Unlike the oh-so-serious STAR TREK franchise, MEN IN BLACK looked for laughs as pop culture celebrities were revealed to be aliens by Tommy Lee Jones in his role as the deadpan Agent K. He had a knack for dispensing hysterical one-liners, and his interaction with his younger and more open protégée, Agent J (Will Smith), also added to the mirth. Action fans were not forgotten, as there were plenty of edge-of-your-seat fight scenes and gizmo weapons.
Back for its second sequel, I am happy to report that the filmmakers have not tinkered with a successful formula. This go-round features a time travel plot, as Agent J has to revisit 1969 to stop a murderer from another planet from killing his partner and also destroying the earth in the process.
MIB3’s villain is Boris “The Animal” (New Zealand actor Jemaine Clement) whose grotesque features include marbles for eyeballs and palms that house poisonous arachnoids. Boris escapes from his prison fortress on the moon and vows to take revenge on Agent K, the man who shot his arm off 43 years ago at Cape Canaveral. He strong-arms an old associate who has a time travel device in his possession in order to avenge what happened in the summer of ‘69. Agent J, upon learning that Boris has accomplished his mission, goes back in time as well to prevent history from being re-written.
The actors, particularly those who were not on board for the original MIB or its initial sequel, clearly grasp what this film franchise is about. Josh Brolin, who has the unenviable task of playing a young Tommy Lee Jones, is very credible while wisely avoiding a slavish impression. Jemaine Clement channels his inner Tim Curry as the bad guy. “Let’s agree to disagree!,” the line he uses before dispensing of an opponent,” and “It’s just Boris!” he sneers whenever anyone includes “The Animal” as a surname, all have a Curryesque feel. Former Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger nicely vamps her sexpot image in the opening scene. “Saturday Night Live” player Bill Hader shines as the late Andy Warhol who, according to this film, was a clandestine government agent.
Although he is not listed as a screenwriter, there is little doubt that director Barry Sonnenfeld was strongly involved with the script. Sonnenfeld grew up in New York. He displayed a fondness for Flushing Meadows in the first MIB as the Unisphere and the old New York State Pavilion structure from the 1964-65 World’s Fair figured prominently, as did Shea Stadium. I still remember Mets outfielder Bernard Gilkey’s startled look to see a spaceship hovering over him in left field.
It’s clear that 1969 was chosen as the fateful year here not just because it was when man first walked on the moon but also because of the Miracle Mets. In a touching scene, Sonnenfeld and some truly talented computer graphics animators were able to recreate Shea Stadium. It is nice to know that Sonnenfeld, like a lot of us, is not ashamed to admit that we miss that ballpark. If you are a Mets fan you are going to have a tear in your eye.
MEN IN BLACK III is proof that sequels don’t always have to adhere to the law of diminishing marginal returns. Go see it.
If you like this recommendations: Men In Black, Men In Black II, Galaxy Quest